(Do not proceed if you do not want to read about poop, diarrhea, death and a lot of crying. You’ve been warned.)
I will admit, it was my brilliant idea.
“Why don’t we give her a rabbit?” I said to Jill, as we planned her niece Jinna’s Christmas gifts this year.
She was reluctant at first but I regaled her with stories about Brucey my bunny and we talked about how this might be a good way to teach Jinna about being responsible. She caved.
Numerous phone calls to different pet shops resulted in nothing – strangely, they had all run out of bunnies. But we were told we might find our answer in one place – Tiendesitas.
“We sell them in pairs. Because if not, they get lonely and die after three days,” a lady at a sad little pet store told us.
We went to a different pet shop manned by a guy with multiple piercings. He was willing to sell us just one bunny but we decided to get two – we didn’t want a lonely bunny. It took a long time and a lot of cuddling and cooing before we finally made our choice. We picked two boys – a beautiful white bunny with gray markings and a fat little bunny with very pale brown-gray fur and the most incredible dark brown nose.
We cuddled them on the way home, we were worried that the car ride would stress them out. We kept talking about names. “Amy and Adele.” “Michael and Jackson.”
Finally, Jill decided. The white and gray bunny would be called Ash. And the brownish gray one would be called Smoke.
Ash and Smoke.
They were playful bunnies, funny little creatures who liked exploring.
On New Year’s Eve, we finally introduced Jinna to her new pets. She adored them and was gentle with them, petting them and feeding them.
The bunnies stayed in Jill’s room – during the day they were allowed to run free and play, at night they slept in a cage in her bathroom. We made sure they were comfortable, that they never ran out of food and water, that they had toilet paper cores and boxes to play with.
We had a few days of bliss with the bunnies – bliss only marred by the need to clean their cages twice a day because rabbit pee plain stinks.
Every night before they sleep, I’d have my cuddle time with Smoke while Jill and Ash would play. Smoke was the sweeter bunny, Ash was a little grumpy but they were equally adorable.
And then, diarrhea happened. Smoke was the first one who got it. Research told me that it wasn’t actually diarrhea – that the explosive mess we were seeing were unformed cecotropes. Following instructions from bunny experts, we made changes in their food intake and carefully cleaned the rabbits, the cage and their bowls. The next day, Smoke seemed to be getting better but Ash had diarrhea too. Again, we cleaned them up (it was a very messy process – you know it’s true love when you’re touching someone else’s poop), tried to hydrate them and make them comfortable. Smoke was still playful and constantly eating but Ash wasn’t as energetic.
He didn’t seem extremely sick. He didn’t seem like he was going to die.
At around 3 in the morning, Jill checked on the bunnies and started yelling. “Ash is not moving!”
My heart started beating triply fast. I looked at Ash and started crying. He was by the cage door, completely still. What was scary was how thin he suddenly looked. He still looked normal just a few hours before. But his ears looked alert and his eyes were wide open.
Maybe we could still save him.
I ran to my computer and tried to figure out what we can do. “Let’s go, let’s get him that water solution a girl used to revive her rabbit,” I said to Jill.
“He’s dead!” Jill said.
“No he’s not!”
We went back to the cage in the bathroom. I clapped my hands. Ash didn’t move. I moved the cage. Ash didn’t move. I called his name. Ash didn’t move.
Ash was dead.
Jill and I were crying and crying and crying. Smoke was still in the messy cage and we wanted to get him out. But getting him out meant opening the cage door Ash was leaning against. Neither of us wanted to touch Ash. I didn’t want to feel him cold and lifeless. I wanted to remember him as the beautiful, warm, grumpy furball that he was. Jill felt the same way.
We thought of calling Manang Amy to ask her to help us but it was 4 in the morning.
We left the bathroom, sat on Jill’s carpet and continued to cry.
“You do it.”
“Di ko kaya.”
“Di ko din kaya.”
But I knew I had to set my fear aside. Smoke, who was probably terrified and confused, needed to get out of that cage. And Ash needed to be put to rest.
I walked back to the bathroom still crying. I knelt by the cage, took a deep breath and opened the cage door. There was a part of me that was hoping Ash would move when the cage door opened. That he’d still be alive.
But he was dead.
I took another deep breath and reached out for him. It was like picking up a stuffed animal. It was like he was never alive. I put him in a box. His gray ears stuck out of it. I put the lid on the box and turned to Smoke who looked sad, really sad.
I wanted to make sure he was okay. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t on the verge of dying too.
Smoke hopped over to me when he heard me open his bag of food. He was so hungry he started climbing all over the bag. To our relief, he started eating. And eating. And that was a very good sign.
Smoke returned to his cage for the night, looking sad. I knew he was missing Ash.
The next day, Smoke seemed fine. His poop was looking better too. But he was sad. So incredibly sad. We let him out of the cage and stayed in one corner of the bathroom. We gave him toys, he ignored us. We gave him food, he ignored us.
Manang Amy dug a hole by Jill’s mango tree. The four of us – Manang Amy, Jill, Jinna and I – held a quick bunny funeral.
Jinna showed me a flower she had picked from the garden. She carried Ash’s box downstairs, placed it in the hole and put the flower on top of the box before Manang Amy started shoveling dirt to cover it.
“Jinna, lead the prayer.” we said.
She smiled sheepishly. “Umm… di ako ready.”
“Sige na, pray ka lang,” we said to her.
And she started praying.
“Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”
The prayer before meals. At a bunny funeral.
I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. And I couldn’t stop. Tears streamed down my face, tears for Ash, but I also couldn’t stop laughing. Jill couldn’t stop laughing either.
It was a crazy funeral, short, funny, sad – just like our quick roller coaster ride with our beloved Ash.
Jill posted on Twitter last night: “I hope all bunnies go to heaven.”
I know Ash is in bunny heaven. And I hope he’s watching over Smoke because he’s still extremely sad.
Thankfully, he liked the stuffed rabbit we left by his side. At least he still has a bunny to cuddle with. And he’s started eating again – carrots did the trick.
At this point, I am willing to do anything to make Smoke happy again – cartwheels, card tricks, I’d freaking eat fire.
Because God help us, we are going to keep this rabbit alive.